Mazda may drop minicar production

Mazda Motor Corp. hinted Jan. 10 that it may withdraw from the minicar development and production business because minicar standards are expected to change in October 1998.A Mazda spokesman did not deny media reports that the firm will stop production of its Carol minicar, although he said that it will continue selling the model after 1998. Mazda has been producing the Carol since 1989, with leading minicar maker Suzuki Motor Co. supplying major components such as engines and transmissions. Mazda already entrusts production of its two other minicar models to Suzuki.Minicars, in terms of Japanese market standards, measure 3.3 meters or less in length and 1.4 meters or less in width. The government plans to introduce new standards under which minicars would become bigger and therefore considered safer. This means that minicars will become more like small passenger cars.Analysts say the possible withdrawal suggests that Mazda and its business partner Ford Motor Co. intend to have Mazda focus on developing small passenger cars which the firm is strong at, instead of investing in the unprofitable minicar business. It is becoming clear that Mazda is losing its initiative in the area of product development, and its future raison d’etre will be to explore the Asian market as a partner of Ford, they say.